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The Condescension of the Secular Left

In the current issue of New York magazine, writer Kurt Andersen takes on the Intelligent Design movement. Actually, he takes on the entire structure of Christian belief. His assertion of agnosticism is unremarkable in the elite urban culture of New York City. What makes this article sigificant is its level of secular condescension and arrogance.

Mr. Andersen just can’t understand why so many modern Americans insist on believing in God. As he sees it, “a huge supermajority of Americans believe in–what else to call it?–magic: 61 percent think the world was created in six days, 70 to 78 percent say that hell and the Devil and angels exist, 81 to 85 percent believe in Heaven. If opinion polling had existed in the Middle Ages, it’s hard to imagine that the numbers would have been much higher.”

In other words, those who believe in God are throw-backs to Andersen’s vision of the Dark Ages. He and his fellow unbelievers, on the other hand, are “reality-based” in their worldview. Nevertheless, those who reject belief in God are outnumbered. Here’s how he puts it: For practical reasons–reasons both of politics and civility–it ordinarily behooves our tiny minority of reality-based infidels to keep quiet about our astonishment that most of our fellow citizens are in thrall to fantastic medieval fever dreams, just as it behooves secular minorities in Islamic countries to keep their modern sentiments to themselves. In countries like ours, the Iraqs and Afghanistans and USAs, liberals need to pick their battles. Well, Mr. Andersen has decided to pick one.

This is his batlle cry: Sometimes we have to make an impolitic stink in support of the Enlightenment, and of the pieces of the Constitution–like the first words of the Bill of Rights, about government making “no law respecting an establishment of religion”–that are its revolutionary political expression. Intelligent design (ID), the hot new rebranding of Christian creationism, is extremely clever, profoundly disingenuous, and, I think, dangerous. It must be beaten back and kept out of the public schools.

Kurt Andersen is afraid that the sky is falling on secularism and that theocracy is just around the corner. Note the final sentence of his column: According to a new Pew Research Center poll, 64 percent of Americans are in favor of having creationism and evolution taught in school–and it seems most of those would actually prefer to replace evolution altogether with scriptural teaching. Like I said, those of us who believe wholeheartedly in science and the First Amendment are the freaks. Well, “enlightenment” is such a burden to bear.